Enforcing an Out-of-State Judgment in California

By Bryan Grundon

One of the worst things you can be told after going through the lengthy and expensive process of obtaining a judgment is that your debtor has moved to another state – and taken their assets with them. The court has already decided that they owe you money. It shouldn’t be hard to enforce it, should it? Unfortunately, California is one of only four states that has not enacted the Revised Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act, the purpose of which is to simplify the process of collecting on your judgment in a state different from the one in which it was entered. All hope is not lost, though. We can help simplify the process of enforcing your judgment in California.

The Superior Court of California requires an out-of-state judgment to be domesticated before you can collect on it. This involves obtaining a certified copy of the original judgment and filing it with the local court along with a number of other documents detailing the terms of the judgment and notifying the debtor of the domestication. Once all of the necessary paperwork has been filed with the court, you will be able to obtain what in California is called a sister-state judgment, which allows for the enforcement of your original judgment. In most cases, before you can collect on it, you will need to serve the new judgment on the debtor and allow them thirty days to respond. Once the thirty days have passed, or the court rules on the challenge to the judgment, we can begin the collection process on the judgment in California, just like you would in the judgment’s original state of entry. If the judgment debtor is not a resident of California or emergency circumstances approved by a Superior Court judge execution proceedings are allowed immediately.

We do whatever it takes to give you the best possible shot of collecting on your judgment, from levying your debtor’s bank account, to garnishing his wages or putting a lien on any property she may own in California. You’ve already done the hard work of getting the judgment – let us make the rest of the process as easy as possible! Even if you don’t know what kind of assets your debtor has in California, we can take care of it. Our staff, along with the experienced process servers and private investigators that work with us, know just how to track down a debtor’s assets, from running bank skips to locate their open bank accounts, to serving them with an order to appear in court and reveal their asset information.

Recently, we had a case where we obtained a sister-state judgment against a corporation doing business in California. When our client could not provide us with viable asset information on the debtor, we had our process server track down the CEO of the company and personally serve him to appear in court and provide us with all of the company’s financial details. Whatever your situation, you can rest assured that your foreign judgment is in good hands with us.

Claims of Exemption

Claims of Exemption

by Antonia Gordon and Bryan Grundon

There are many ways to collect on a judgment. Wage garnishments and bank levies happen to be two of the most common and reliable methods. With the first, we can garnish a debtor’s wages and thus ensure consistent payments on a judgment. With the second, we gain access to whatever funds a debtor has in their account at the time of the levy.

Unfortunately, garnishments and levies may not always be completely successful. After the Sheriff serves one of these on a bank or employer, the debtor receives notice and has a chance to respond to it. They can complete a form called a claim of exemption, which allows them to claim part (or all) of their wages or the funds in their bank account as exempt. If the claimed wages or funds are necessary to support the debtor or their family, the court may grant their claim (in full or in part), and we will not be able to collect the full amount from the garnishment or levy. The debtor, however, must provide proof that their earnings or funds are exempt. The first step to this is filling out a financial statement in which they list their monthly earnings and expenses, including those of their spouse.

Once a debtor files a claim of exemption, you have the opportunity to oppose it. If you do not oppose it by following a very specific procedure, the exemption is granted by operation of law. Opposing a claim of exemption involves reviewing the debtor’s financial statement to look for any inconsistencies or excessive spending. If we believe that the debtor can afford to pay more than they claim, we will set a hearing with the court and file paperwork to oppose the claim. At the hearing, both parties will get the chance to argue their side. In most cases, the debtor can afford to pay at least a small amount, even when they claim they cannot afford to pay anything at all. In their financial statements, debtors may overestimate how much they spend on certain things, such as food and gas. We have even had debtors claim they make a certain amount per month only to have their employer reveal that they actually make significantly more. Judges are never happy to see this kind of deception! We make sure we have the full story before going to court, so the debtor ends up paying what they can actually afford, and you are able to collect on your judgment.